Election officials Wednesday confirmed Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the first elected female president in Africa, and she pledged in her acceptance speech to end Liberia’s history of corrupt, brutal rule.
Johnson-Sirleaf, 67, said her victory marked a new beginning for her country and for African women, whom she called on to help govern their own nations.
Supporters cheered the veteran politician as her motorcade toured the battle-scarred capital, Monrovia, a once-tidy city whose government-supplied electricity, water and sewage systems failed during years of strife that killed tens of thousands.
“We have shattered the glass-ceiling theory, and I hope women will seize the moment to become active in civil and political affairs here at home and abroad,” she said.
The certified results of the Nov. 8 runoff showed Johnson-Sirleaf beating her rival, soccer superstar George Weah, 59.4% to 40.6%, National Elections Commission Chairwoman Frances Johnson-Morris said.
In her address, Johnson-Sirleaf thanked the 39-year-old Weah, whom she offered the post of sports minister or another government position.
International observers said the vote was largely clean.
Weah’s representatives, however, said he still refused to concede defeat, maintaining allegations of ballot-box stuffing and vowing to keep fighting the results in court.
“We are questioning the entire process,” said Eugene Nagbe, secretary-general of Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change party.
“The elections were fraudulent.”
When she takes up her duties after a January inauguration, Johnson-Sirleaf will lead Africa’s oldest republic, founded in 1847 by freed American slaves.
The former finance minister and veteran of Citibank, the World Bank and the United Nations faces stiff challenges.
Unemployment is more than 80%. Many of Liberia’s 3.3 million people are illiterate. Hundreds of thousands live in relief camps, and many of the most educated are living overseas.